The 2019 “Annual” Reunion pot-luck picnic for MIUW 103/104 was held on Saturday, 13 October 2019 at Coast Guard Island as in past years. Group photo at the end of this lengthy missive! A good time was had by all and it was great to see all you MIUWtants once again…..
We also celebrated the 244th Birthday of the US Navy during Fleet Week!
“Eternal Vigilance Is The Price Of Liberty”
MIUW? Wazzat? Modern day coast watchers? And MORE?
Some selected adventures of the MIUWtants of:
Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 1920 AKA MIUW 1920, MIUWU 1920
Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 103 AKA MIUW 103, MIUWU 103
The names have been changed to protect – well – never mind. (MIUW 1920 = MIUW 103)
(By the way – We are not here, we never were here, you’ve mistaken us for someone else and this conversation never happened.)
For MIUWU 103 and 104 Units based at Treasure Island and San Jose respectively, we HAD a Yahoo Groups “bulletin board” to pass the word and generally keep an active Comms Net in operation. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/miuw103-104assn/
UPDATE: 2020: Yahoo has disbanded Groups, including ours.
MIUW 103 and its predecessors had their mission-roots going back before the Civil War. The task of Harbor Defense goes back even farther than that but our origins as a San Francisco-based harbor defense unit are clear. The unit worked from several locations over the years, including some time “drilling” every Wednesday night in the basement of the Palo Alto Post Office!
In the above photo, Fort Point is seen as the original harbor defense installation in San Francisco; construction started in 1853. Shown here as the new Golden Gate bridge footings are being built OVER the fort circa 1934. Along with its associated coastal artillery sites on both sides of the Golden Gate and on Alcatraz and Angel Islands, it defended the City, port and country from sea-based attack during the Civil War up through the WWII era. Those defenses later included the nuclear-armed Nike anti aircraft missiles in the hills across the Gate from here.
Even though the modern units are highly mobile and deployable in an expeditionary mode to defend any friend, any where, our historical roots are here at this fort. Notice the shoulder patch on the soldier in the middle. The Third Infantry Division. Harbor Defense used to be an Army mission back then. By WWII the Harbor Entrance Control Points were manned by both Army and Navy personnel, the Navy controlling detection, surveillance, nets and traffic control. Reference (5). (US Army Signal Corps photo)
Later on in November 1966, 4 MIUW units deployed to Vietnam under CTF-115, two from LANT Fleet, two from PAC Fleet, reporting to Inshore Undersea Warfare Group One West Pac Det. Those units protected their assigned harbors and port facilities with their organic Harbor Patrol Elements consisting primarily of armed LCPL boats and even armed Boston Whalers.
During this time frame, the units were all manned by active duty personnel as significant Reserve forces were not being called up in large numbers for that effort. The IUW Groups remained active-duty into the mid 1970’s although the MIUW Units mission had transitioned to a Navy Reserve organization by then. The IUW Groups then transitioned to a primarily all-Reserve manning thereafter. The organization, staffing makeup and chain of command is undergoing more changes into the 21st century. The mission continued.
With this website’s primary emphasis on tactical radio communications, I’ll mainly focus on that narrow aspect of MIUW 103 history, plus a few Sea Stories. If you want more information, or a current update, see your friendly Navy Recruiter and then get a Security Clearance… Sorry! ;o) Maybe a Time Machine as well!
Above: Some time after the Civil War, but nearby (simulating an enemy-held territory), our coastwatcher team trains on a remote Pacific beach, checking in with the PRC-47 HF radio with a Codeword indicating: “Feet Dry – heading for the OP.” Coastwatchers provide essential situational awareness for situational understanding.
Above: Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 1920 sets up the AN/TSQ-108 Radar Sonar Surveillance Center (RSSC) van at Mare Island CA. Keeping watch – a training exercise circa 1980.
Above: We did a lot of cold weather training as well. After 1975, we expanded our attention to preparations in support of NATO defensive operations in northern Europe. Here in the Sierra Nevada mountains with a Marine Corps instructor from Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, then based in Reno NV. Use your cross country ski’s and poles to build a roof for your snow-trench hootch. Throw your poncho over it, roll out your sleeping bag inside. Set the watch section, get a radio check, Reveille is at 0600, see you for chow in the morning.
So who’s here? Bosun’s Mates, a Gunners Mate, a Sonar Technician, a Storekeeper, an Engineman, a Personnelman, a Radioman, an Electronics Technician, an Electrician, a Quartermaster, an Operations Specialist, Surface Warfare Officers, two Submariners and a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant.
“The people who join MIUW don’t join it because MIUW’s are different.
They join it because THEY are.”
Always time for a reenlistment ceremony, often in the unusual places you happened to be when the clock ran out.. Here, Gunners Mate First Class “Bill” is reenlisted by the CO in a snow trench in the Sierras. We always had very high reenlistment rates, even when deployed in nasty places where declining the offer got you a ticket home – no harm, no foul, THANK YOU for your service to our Country….
That particular hootch became our communications bunker, housing our PRC-47 HF transceiver and PRC-77. More great training.
The PRC-47 provided support comms back to our watchstanders at Treasure Island CA.
Above: The AN/TSQ-108 set up at Red Beach, Camp Pendleton CA. Lots of interesting things to detect, localize, identify, record, analyze, track, see, hear – and prosecute. Got antennas?
Relevant training for big things to come.
Then off to the US Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport CA many times. Crossing a river on a one-rope bridge, rapelling, survival, navigation, communications, small unit tactics, high altitude medical, etc. We not only learned how to get around – and stay around – but more importantly, we also learned the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) of those we might be defending against in the future.
Above: From The Sea: Initial elements of the USMC Landing Force, Exercise Kernal Usher.
Landing Craft, Cobras and Tanks Oh My!
Above, the coast watcher control station on Mt. Constitution, on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, Washington state. Part of the 1979 Exercise Strait Jacket III we deployed coast watchers at several sites around Puget Sound with their operations and reports being coordinated at the above station. We then reported via HF radio back to MIUW 1920 at their site hidden in the forest on Whidbey Island. Our mission – to detect, track and report all significant surface (and sub surface) vessel activity entering and leaving Puget Sound through the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We operated portable HF radio’s up here, including a high frequency AN/URC-87 (Southcom SC-130) seen here, a AN/PRC-104 and a VHF AN/PRC-77 seen here in the foreground. This was shortly after the “Admiral Zumwalt Years” – of long hair! Ahem… and C-Rations…
Above: The High Frequency AN/URC-87 transceiver. We had rigged a low dipole antenna; here tuned to our night frequency of 4275 KC upper sideband. Yes, it was an “NVIS” system. This is the militarized Southcom SC-130 “Patrol Phone”. Pretty good portable radio but it wasn’t in the system for very long.
With a nod to the extremely brave Australian and native coast watchers operating in the Solomon Islands during WWII, the tactical exercise scenario here was similar. The Guadalcanal coast watcher control station “KEN” took reports and coordinated operations of the coast watchers on other islands further up “The Slot”. The above station provided a similar function in training; simulating operations in enemy held territory. History has a way of repeating itself. We take notes. We practice, we train, we deploy.
As seen above, our little station was highly mobile. Here, RM2 “Marty” stands beside our M-151 Jeep with trailer on Mt Constitution. With a commandeered picnic table and a couple of shelter halves rigged as defense against the coastal rain.
“If it’s Sun, it’s Fun. If it’s Raining, it’s Training.”
There was a US Navy aircraft carrier in the local shipyard for overhaul; I recall it was the USS Enterprise. Their Marine Corps detachment was bored and jumped at the chance to join the exercise – their mission was to deploy to the islands and attempt to locate and capture the coast watchers. Even though we were periodically resupplied with chow, water and batteries via helicopter during the 2 week exercise, they never caught us. Good training for both groups.
We were eventually extracted by this National Guard CH-47 Chinook and flown back to a small clearing at our site on Whidbey Island.
Does this vehicle look familiar? It should! Seen here at the 2011 Military Vehicle Collectors of California rally at Camp Delta.
No, it’s not mine. A guy from San Jose (?) apparently bought this M-715 Kaiser/Jeep Weapons Carrier surplus from DRMO and then restored it (with those highly non-reg tires and jacked up suspension)… A couple of years back it sported one of our white sonar shark triangle insignias on the door.
“So, you think the chow really tastes like garbage?”
“I’d just be careful of the C-Ration cans that float….erp! ”
If you complain about the chow you get to sample it – at Diego Garcia!
When not sampling the Island Cuisine, I was issued call sign VQ9CC by the British Representative. Made some interesting “radio checks” from there! This “QSL Card” is from the island’s permanent station, VQ9CI.
One of our humble HQ’s in days gone by. The original Treasure Island Communications Center, now owned by the City of San Francisco – the new owners of Treasure Island. A catering company now leases the building from SF. Sleep well tonight…..
Above: More training: Exercise RIMPAC 1984. We hitched a ride aboard an LSD out to Pearl Harbor and then set up in the mountains, in a defilade position, above Hanauma Bay, Oahu. Maintaining surveillance of interesting things above, in and under the Kaiwi / Molokai Channel and seaward. “Hey comrade – what’s that thing up there, just over the ridge, an antenna? Can’t tell, just looks like another power pole.” Nothing to see here, move along.
We also had deployed coastwatchers to Maui and had good PRC-77 radio comms with them, over 80 miles away, mostly over sea water. Our crew was very well trained.
On deployment: Signals training with the Jordanian military out in the desert. Smart, Good guys. Here, demonstrating the Mark 13 Day/Night signal flare — my personal favorite!
On our way downrange to Jordan, our USAF C-141 transport plane stopped at Rhein Main airbase in Frankfurt, Germany. (For fuel and allegedly for directions). As we were reboarding for the Jordan leg we heard the airport staff tell us that there just was a big earthquake in San Francisco. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge had collapsed. Since most of the crew is from SF and the Bay Area, we were quite concerned. We knew that “The Big One” would eventually wreck the city. But we had no comms or options; the C-141 was spooling up out on the tarmac. So off we went. Wheels up.
When we arrived at our remote destination in Jordan we fired up the HF radio gear in the Van and tuned in to the BBC in London on 5975 KC shortwave for some news. Yep – a really big one on the San Andreas fault, near Loma Prieta, just south of the city. Heavy damage. The reporter then stated in the most believable proper English accent that the bridge connecting San Francisco with Burbank had collapsed. Damn, the San Andreas fault must have shifted Burbank about 300 miles north, now it was across the bay from SF! Holy crap! We finally got some comms back home and found out everyone was safe although badly rattled. We later learned that the wife of one of our former crew members had been killed in the bridge collapse.
On our trip back home, the Oakland – SF Bay Bridge had been closed, a section had indeed collapsed. So after we landed at Travis AFB, we convoyed north around the bay and via the Golden Gate Bridge into SF. Can’t get home to Treasure Island in the middle of the Bay. “Didn’t you guys hear that part of the bridge had collapsed and it was closed to check for further damage?” Uh, no, we were out of town. The California Highway Patrol eventually relented and allowed us to travel on the bridge from SF to Treasure Island – the only vehicles on the bridge. Eerie.
Fun Fact: When we had stopped for a layover in Germany most of the crew went shopping – after hitting the local Beer Hall. Apparently, nice German carved wooden Cuckoo Clocks were the thing to buy. (The Air Force crew bought booze. Hmmmm, maybe they know something. Hmmmm, maybe we should just drive the rest of the way to Jordan)
Once at our desert base in Jordan we were living in a big tent city along with the Coast Guard Port Security boat unit. Every hour, the tent city would erupt with dozens of Cuckoo Clocks sounding off announcing the hour. BONG – Coo Coo, BONG Coo Coo, BONG Coo Coo. WHAT?? The Jordanian troops (and the Coast Guardsmen) thought we were truly crazy. “Those guys need to be closely watched…” We played up that notion……Until the blowing desert sand thankfully silenced all the clocks.
Some of our crew not on watch got a chance to visit the ancient Roman city ruins of Petra out in the desert. Indiana Jones must have had the day off – he wasn’t there.
Above: At yet another time and place…..This photo taken before the sky became black with the smoke from Saddam’s oil fires in Kuwait just north of here. “Like looking at the sun through a dark brown beer bottle”. Except we didn’t have any beer…..
“IF YOU WERE THERE, NO EXPLANATION IS NECESSARY.
IF YOU WEREN’T THERE, NO EXPLANATION IS POSSIBLE.”
One of the locals. They were everywhere. Damn it was hot – and freezing cold at night. Especially as summer turned into winter.
Above: A little touch of home – Christmas in the Gulf.
Fun Fact: Our forward-thinking Supply Officer somehow got the phone number for the front desk at one of Saddam’s upscale Baghdad hotels. He called them, requesting reservations for fancy rooms for 80 Navy reservists for New Years Eve. He was answered by unintelligible shouts and then a hangup. Go figure.
Speaking of tents, an interesting side note: The USS Wisconsin battleship was operating in the area. Sometimes they provided “Comms Guard” for us, relaying message traffic for us (speaking of radios…). When they went on the offensive in January 1991 we could FEEL their 16 inch main guns firing from over 150 miles away at times. The shock wave of sound would “thump” our tents when it went by. The tents would just pulsate. Once. You could just feel it more than hear it. We could feel the big guns going off – and then feel the projectile detonation about a minute later as it vaporized enemy positions in Kuwait. Very impressive. Too bad Saddam wasn’t under that instead of his conscripts. It took about 12 minutes for those sounds to reach us.
How to lure a T-72 Tank into your trap. This Soviet-supplied main battle tank had a few Sears Craftsman metric wrenches inside laying around on the deck. Note the infra red spotlights for the night vision equipment. The laser rangefinder in the main gun sight had high quality magnesium fluoride anti-reflection coated optics and beam splitter prisms. But I digress – back to radios….
Above: A Soviet BMP-1 Armored Command Vehicle formerly belonging to Saddam, captured by the US Marine Corps 7th MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade)(we were not involved). Note those thick rear doors – they are also diesel fuel tanks in a BMP-1. I guess better to have that raging fire behind you! . Also note antenna mounts and radio gear inside on the left. A 73 mm gun is mounted in the small turret.
Many hundreds of these otherwise capable armored vehicles were completely shredded by Bradleys, Abrams, M-60’s, naval gunfire, A-10’s, TOW’s, Mavericks and Arty. So I’m told. Hell, I’m just a sailor…..
Above is a British Racal TRA-931 HF radio inside the BMP-1 Armored Command Vehicle, port side. Saddam bought what he needed. Note the crude mount and antenna/ground wiring. Made from “household” THHN electrical wire. Betchya wanna know what freq it was tuned to!
Also, note the gun firing port for your AK-47, above and to the right of the radio. (The BMP-1 is fundamentally an armored personnel carrier.) See those arc-shaped black scratches under the port? They are from the magazine of an AK-47 machine gun firing from that port. This rig probably did not go down without a fight – but it was one of the lucky ones. Judging by the minimal magazine ‘scratches”, the fight was over quickly.
Above: On the starboard side sat this Soviet R-123M VHF FM radio set. Functionally, it is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Korean War-vintage VRC-10 / RT-68 sets although it has wider frequency coverage (20 – 51.5 MC). Ever wonder why the AN/PRD-1 Radio Direction Finder system could receive FM at 20 MC? Here’s your answer. Painted in the characteristic silver hammertone of Soviet gear of that era. The R-123M tuning and frequency readout system is a close copy of a complex WWII German radio. Again, note the crude mount and wiring. No frills. This one was in good condition – it probably worked fine.
This one didn’t. A SCUD Dud. Very Close, but no Cigar….. Actually probably a stretched “Al Husayn” missile, a local Iraqi modification of a Soviet SCUD B variant. It had more fuel and a lighter warhead (thus producing longer range needed for Iraq’s earlier attacks on Tehran in that conflict). Amazingly crudely fabricated parts inside. But these killed people.
Below: That torroidal pressure tank had mounting flange bolt holes cut with a torch, not even a hand drill. A plywood bulkhead. Some of the internal wiring in this high explosive warhead was insulated and held together with painters masking tape. This one was probably fired from north of Basra in southern Iraq. Some of the date codes on the internal parts were “interesting”…..
From Russia with Love (via Saddam).
Photo Credit, Mike Laney MIUW 103
Just the double sonic booms of this supersonic missile falling towards the harbor at Al Jubail (Jubayl if you like) was quite loud. REALLY loud. Our watch standers saw it come in overhead “trailing purple sparks” as it re-entered the atmosphere around 0200 in the morning.
The Coast Guard patrol boat crews of PSU-301 working with us also saw it fall; then went over to investigate the smoking hole in the water. MOPP 4 – hop into your chem-bio warfare suits and gas masks. Our thanks to Navy EODMU9 D33 who safed this sucker (under water), then retrieved, defuzed and disarmed it.. You know who you are. So do we. Thanks guys…..
Navy EOD also blew mines that had broken their moorings and floated south along the coast with the current. We had a trusty .50 Cal BMG at the ready if any mines (or anyone else) visited us more closely. A distinct threat where we were located – and we couldn’t exactly maneuver out of the way.
A Marine Corps officer also on-scene with us later quipped that if I had pulled out my .45 Automatic and returned fire BACK towards the Scud’s launch site we would have qualified for a Combat Action Ribbon! Ha! Most of the Navy ship crews in the Gulf received a CAR because their ship may have encountered a mine – like the Tripoli and Princeton actually did. How’s THIS SCUD for a close encounter! The grunts out in the desert really earned their CAR’s. As it was intended, as it should be.
Not much else to see here – back to work. Maffi Mooshkala – no problem.
About a third of the crew was on watch when this photo was taken. Superb people. Several people joined us from our sister unit, MIUW 104, and our Salt Lake City det. to fill in a few vacant billets when we were mobilized. Thanks guys & gals!
Above: Teaching a Morse Code class on-site in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. After the shooting stopped and the ThreatCon had been reduced, we had some time for additional training. Here, conducting a class for several guys using an audio oscillator from our test equipment pool, a CW key and speaker to generate code. A couple of these guys went on to get their Ham radio licenses, utilizing this fundamental military skill.
During the combat operations, we had run some CW communications tests from our site back to Bahrain on assigned USN high frequency circuits in an effort to build as much communications redundancy as possible. Fortunately there were also Morse-qualified operators at the Bahrain site to enable this. It worked well.
Yes Virginia, Morse Code was used During Operation Desert Storm.
(Was that the last time the US Navy used CW on a tactical circuit?)
MIUW 103 also had a Navy MARS callsign assigned, NNN0NOZ, although we did not operate on any MARS circuits while deployed (another potential backup circuit)
Note the Colt .45 Automatic being carried by CWO4 “Bern”, extreme right foreground. Yes we had .45’s instead of the 9mm M-9 Baretta’s – and we were glad we had them. The US Marines we were working with often tried to trade their 9mm Baretta’s for our .45’s. No thanks….
Also, note two “short timers chains” made of soda can pop-tops hanging on the tent bulkhead behind us. Standard military fare but since this was an open-ended deployment, we ADDED a link to the chain for each day rather than removing one from an established-length chain. We were on line for 180 days straight, no days “off”.
Unlike the other units much further south of us which enjoyed commercial hotels, restaurant food and visits to the local souks for shopping, we had no “in town” liberty in Jubail; only a few of the crew got to have any liberty in Bahrain – usually associated with logistics runs down there. A few guys also got a couple of days on the cruise ship that was brought in as a controlled liberty site, also in Bahrain. Otherwise, we were on line, 18-20 hour work days, 24/7/180. HOOYAH!
When Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, MIUW 103 was one of the very early units to land in Saudi Arabia under Operation Desert Shield. We were a high priority unit on the “TPFDL”, Time-Phased Force Deployment List. (We flew in on a C-5 transport in September with all our personnel and gear, arriving at a desert airfield at 0230. Put on your Kevlar, Move Out.)
Then, we were the northern-most U.S. Navy unit in proximity to Iraqi forces for several months thereafter. Those facts earned us an early ticket home after the shooting of Operation Desert Storm had stopped but before the sweeping up, paperwork and retrograde began.
As always, the GREAT family members who carried the toughest load! Especially to Lorrie and MaryLou who coordinated all the family meetings, problem solving, communications and unit liaison with the families. Thank YOU! doesn’t even come remotely close enough. Thank YOU!
Fast Forward 17 years – Navy News – January 19, 2008:
“At a Redesignation and Change of Command ceremony at NOSC Alameda, MIUW 103 was disestablished and then redesignated as Maritime Expeditionary Boat Detachment 113. During that ceremony, CDR Christopher Olaes USN, the last Commanding Officer of MIUW 103 passed the unit Ensign to the MIUW 103 Veterans Association. At this ceremony, the MIUW 103 Ensign, which had recently flown over the unit in the northern Arabian Gulf, was then Piped Over the Side for safe keeping”. – until the next time – HOOYAH!
This occurred with the reorganization and stand-up of the new Naval Coastal Warfare Command, Navy Expeditionary Security Force and Navy Expeditionary Warfare Commands as those forces continue to evolve. What was old becomes new again. The Inshore Undersea Warfare units that were deployed in southeast Asia defending those ports had organic patrol boats as part of their operations. Here we go again. Maybe if we wait long enough and relearn some obvious history the Navy will bring back the Nasty PTF boats of the Green Water Navy again. But that’s another story.
The MIUW 103-104 Veterans Association N5 Reunion Planning Staff at a recent “conference”.
“George MIUW – Your table for 9 is ready…” The Sea Stories get better every year…..
Above: Our annual picnic and reunion was held at Coast Guard Island CA on 29 Sept 2012. We had about 40 alumni and family attend and a good time was had by all! Mike volunteered to procure, transport, prepare, cook and serve our “field rations” along with Pot Luck selections by all hands. Thanks Mike and to all others!
We were especially pleased that Glen (with cane) could make it all the way from Fresno with his son. Glen served aboard the USS Nevada as it shelled German positions in Normandy during the 1944 assault to liberate Europe and he served in MIUW 103 for many years later. Glen has also become the “duty” Stand Up Comedian for the unit! Wow! It was great to see everyone again and share in the stories and history of these fine people and units. See you again next year…More to follow.
The Motley Crew: May 17, 2014. Some had to leave early, some had arrived late.
Above: The MIUW Crew at our 2016 picnic and sea-story-fest. Once again, our many thanks to the Rec. Committee organizers who made it happen, all those who provided excellent chow and especially to Mike who once again provided the grillin’ fixins and then cooked it all for us. Meritorious Service!
The 2019 Reunion is now history! We had a nice time at CGI, even during Fleet Week with those noisy Blue Angels and Fat Albert providing acoustic background sounds. Many thanks to Allen, Don, Dave and Brant for herding the cats, making arrangements, buying, transporting and cooking the chow! Also to everyone who provided accessory goodies and for continuing these great friendships! BZ!
We had the usual suspects and many other MIUW Vets who had missed earlier reunions – glad to see you guys and ladies! SO many Sea Stories!!
We also acknowledged the passing of many of our shipmates recently, and over the years. Please keep us on your eternal radar scopes. You are all missed but with us in spirit!
(Photos, except Ft Point: Author)
This post is ongoing – stop by again for updates!